Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘laos’

Downriver

downriver collage

My photobook, Downriver, is still available through blurb.co.uk.

In the summer of 2013, I spent four months following the Mekong river through south-east Asia. From the Xishuangbanna region in China’s Yunnan province, I travelled into northern Laos, crossed the river for a brief visit to Thailand, then continued down through the southern tail of Laos and into eastern Cambodia, before finishing my journey in the Mekong delta region in southern Vietnam. The book is a collection of my photographs and thoughts from the trip.

The 136 page book is available as an 8×10 in softcover book or as a PDF download. Click here to order or to see a limited preview.

downriver

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New photobook: Downriver

downriver

Five countries, four months, one river.

In the summer of 2013, I spent four months following the Mekong river through south-east Asia. From the Xishuangbanna region in China’s Yunnan province, I travelled into northern Laos (making my apologies to Burma), crossed the river for a brief visit to Thailand, then continued down through the southern tail of Laos and into eastern Cambodia, before finishing my journey in the Mekong delta region in southern Vietnam. This book is a collection of my photographs and thoughts from the trip.

The 136 page book is available as an 8×10 in softcover book or as a PDF download. Click here to order or to see a limited preview.

Border hopping

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For several hundred miles, the Mekong river acts as the border between Laos and Thailand. For most of this part of my Mekong trip, I stayed on the Lao side of the border, but for a few days at the end of June I crossed over to Thailand, partly to get a new Lao visa, and partly just to see the other side of the river.  Although there is a ferry service connecting the two sides, this now seems to be reserved for Lao and Thai nationals only. Everyone else has to travel by road, across one of the impressive new Friendship Bridges spanning the river.  From Tha Khaek in southern Laos, I took the bus (along with a boisterous extended Vietnamese family) to Nakhon Phanom in Thailand, where I stayed for a few days before travelling downriver to Mukdahan for a night, from where I crossed back into Laos via a different bridge, travelling on to Savannakhet.  I’ve written before about how countries along the Mekong gradually merge into one another in border regions, and these riverside towns were another example of that,  although the Thai side was noticeably busier and more prosperous.  These pictures were all taken in Tha Khaek, Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan.

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Mekong views

130524-277-editedJinghong, Yunnan province, China

Looking through the pictures I’ve posted from my Mekong trip, I noticed something missing: there are hardly any pictures of the river itself.  There are a few reasons for this, I think.  I naturally incline towards pictures of people – they’re the pictures that I’m best at, and that I most enjoy taking, but I do sometimes feel the need to broaden my repertoire a little.  I don’t have many regrets about this trip, but one of the few I do have is not getting more good landscape and river shots.  I remember being on a long bus journey in Laos, between Savannakhet and Pakse, speeding past rice paddies in the rain.  As the rain stopped and the late afternoon sun emerged, the fields were lit up in the most beautiful, soft, warm light.  You’ll have to take my word for it, because I didn’t get a picture.  As I said, I was on a bus at the time, and that bus wasn’t stopping for anyone.  I spent a few days in Pakse after that bus journey, but never saw that beautiful light again, so that rice paddy image only exists in my memory.  This is just one example of a great picture that I didn’t take, along with the countless early morning street scenes that I was too lazy to get up in time for.   So I’m a little disappointed with the landscape pictures that I actually did take – they’re just not as good as the ones in my head, or perhaps it’s just that they don’t grab me as immediately as my best people shots.   Whatever the reason, I neglected to post many Mekong landscapes (riverscapes?) while I was travelling, so I’ve collected a few together to post now.  These pictures were all taken between May and August this year.

130611-005-editedPak Beng, Laos

130613-089-editedLuang Prabang, Laos

130615-078-editedLuang Prabang, Laos

130619-045-editedFerry across the Mekong (1), Luang Prabang, Laos

130627-086-editedView of Laos at dusk from Nakhon Phanom, Thailand

130718-371-editedStorm clouds gathering, Kratie, Cambodia

130807-255-editedChau Doc, Mekong delta, Vietnam

130821-056-editedVinh Long, Mekong delta, Vietnam

130821-062-editedVinh Long, Mekong delta, Vietnam

130821-173-editedFerry across the Mekong (2), Vinh Long, Mekong delta, Vietnam

Blue skies and green fields

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At the southernmost point of Laos, the Mekong river widens and splits into countless channels and streams as it encounters thousands of small islands in its path. It’s like a dress rehearsal for the Mekong delta to the south. The exact number of islands varies with the seasons, as the water level rises and falls, but the area is known as Si Phan Don, or Four Thousand Islands.

There are several little tourist enclaves dotted around the waterfront areas of the islands, particularly on Don Det, while inland there are tiny villages, and acres of rice paddies. I spent my days reading and relaxing, sheltering from the sun, before venturing out for some late afternoon cycle rides. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Laos before heading on into Cambodia.

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Becalmed

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I ran out of steam a little in Pakse. Having spent the previous seven weeks travelling from Yunnan province in China down to southern Laos, I found that I had lost my momentum. The weather – alternating between exhausting heat and apocalyptic thunderstorms – didn’t help, and Pakse isn’t the most enticing of towns, but I can’t really blame these things for my lack of energy. I know from experience that when these listless moods come along, I just have to wait them out. After a few days of feeling tired and heavy even before breakfast, I woke up one day suddenly feeling clearer and brighter. I left town the next day.

Pakse looks a little like Savannakhet, my previous stop, with plenty of that faded colonial thing going on, but feels more neglected than charming. Although I wasn’t that happy with my pictures at the time, with distance – in terms of days passed and miles travelled – I’ve come to like some of them and am happy to post them here.

Since leaving Pakse, incidentally, I’ve been getting up early in the morning and cycling in the afternoons, England have been doing well in the cricket, and the world seems a brighter place.

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A wet wat

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At the time, I thought that my visit to Wat Phu Champasak was a complete washout, ruined by the rain.  But looking at these pictures again today, I quite like the way the ruined Khmer temple looks in the wet.

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